Friday, October 10, 2008

Making faces - and other things, too

It was a common sight on the way to school. Along one side of Kodambakkam High Road would be the production units, potters using long sticks to spin their wheels and then coaxing the clay into shapes of every kind. The clay stock itself would be shoulder high, seeming to be solid walls - but as we return from school, we could see that stock depleted and the day's work baking either in the sun or in little kilns that were given space besides the huts of the "Potters' Colony". All those pots and decorative pieces would move to the footpath on the other side of the road, where the sales team would line them up and tempt the passer-by into picking up one or a dozen.

Pavements are great places for bargains in Chennai; had written about the seasonal fruitshop earlier; terracotta has seasons, too. A couple of days ago, there were hardly any pots on the pavement. They had given way to all these faces - including a large-ish Durga in typically Bengali style, sandwiched between the demons all set to ward off evil eyes. If you look closely, you can spot the blue Krishna dolls, probably left over from a golu batch. In a week or so, all these would have cleared out to make way for various kinds of decorative lamps, ready to meet the Diwali demand. And then, after the festival season is done, it will be back to decorative pieces and flower pots.

With the kilns having been banned in this area, the potters are all gone. At least, the production has moved somewhere out of the city; the old-timers still live here. Like in many traditional crafts, fewer youth take to pottery for their livelihood. The number of these shops on the footpath has reduced - very soon, such pieces may only be found in some airconditioned showroom. Before that day comes, go out, grab as many of these as you can!

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